sealPurdue News

October 4, 1996

Expert advocates behavior modification to control ADHD

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Only 10 percent of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) receive any kind of therapy to help them modify their behavior. A Purdue University expert on ADHD says that figure should be near 100 percent.

"Ninety percent of children with ADHD are treated with stimulant medication at some time in their lives, but taking a pill is only a three-hour solution to the problem," said Betsy Hoza, assistant professor of psychological sciences. "Teaching children to control their behavior might be expected to make more of an impact on their lives."

Hoza is a faculty supervisor for Purdue's Child and Adolescent Clinic, which provides behavior modification therapy for youths with a variety of problems.

"Medication should not be the first choice for treating ADHD," she said. Hoza advocates trying behavior management techniques first and then adding medication if the child's behavior remains unacceptable. She maintains that medication dosages often could be cut in half if they were coupled with behavioral treatment.

When behavior modification methods are put into practice, it's the adults who get most of the formal training. In the Purdue clinic, parents of ADHD children attend 10 sessions to learn simple skills for managing their child's behavior. The children's teachers also are asked to fill out daily report cards on the student's conduct. Parents then provide home-based rewards when children exhibit proper school behavior.

Among the topics covered is how to give commands in a way that will bring about compliance by the child. "For example, telling a child to be good is not specific enough," Hoza said. "If you want them to sit in a chair with their feet on the floor, tell them that." Parents also receive information on how to use time-outs and how to tackle difficult times such as getting ready for school or bedtime.

"It's not that these parents have bad parenting skills. We assure them and remind them that they probably have other children at home who are doing just fine," Hoza said. "Even excellent parents need to learn how to structure the environment differently for a child with ADHD."

Hoza said one reason more children may not be receiving behavior modification is because of the commitment it requires of parents. "It's a lot easier to give a child a pill than to teach them how to manage their behavior," she said. "Also, many parents may not know where to go to get help."

Counseling at the Purdue Child and Adolescent clinic is provided free by student clinicians in the psychological sciences graduate program. Faculty members supervise the students, monitoring sessions and advising on therapies.

The clinic handles a variety of youth problems in addition to ADHD. They include adjustment difficulties, learning disabilities, depression, eating problems and abuse or neglect. For more information or to make an appointment, call the clinic at (765) 494-6996.

Source: Betsy Hoza, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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